Newest Review: ... 15 minutes for an anaesthesitist to become available. I then had to sit on the edge of the bed with my back sort of hunched over and keep... more
Pain Free Child birth!
Member Name: Foxy-Lady
Advantages: Pain free child birth...what more can I say!
Disadvantages: Numb from waist down
I went to bed at the usual time but couldnít get comfortable due to a niggling back pain. Restless and up and down like a yo-yo, I laid back in bed at approximately 2 am, only to feel a massive gush - my waters had broken. From that moment on things started happening so fast! Contractions just kept coming and I was in agony.
After 285 long days of waiting, the time had finally come. My baby was about to be born!
Arriving at the hospital about 20 minutes later I was shuffled straight into a delivery suite to be checked over. At 7 centimetres dilated, labour had steadily been progressing all evening without my knowledge. Now I had some decisions to make...pain relief. Settled on the bed with Etonox (gas and air) for company I was completely adamant:
ďNothing. Iím fine with just gas and air thanks. My birth plan says...AAARRGH. CONTRACTION. GOD, IT HURTS. BREEEEATHE. BREEEEATHE. BREEEEATHE. BREEEEATHE. BREEEEATHE. BREEEEATHE...I only want major drugs if really necessary. Iíll be OKĒ
But then I listened...and I heard the woman in the suite next door (who had also refused pain relief) screaming as if she were being tortured. This did nothing to settle my nerves. I was then reminded that I didnít have long to decide as Pethidine and Epidural canít be administered too far into labour. And then I was hit by another contraction which suddenly felt twice as bad as the last. As that subsided I could again hear the woman next door...shouting, crying, screaming. Which was when I started to panic and became a bit hysterical. What if I decided I couldnít cope with the pain but it was too late to go back on my word? Itís agony now - what if it gets worse?? How much more intense can it possibly get??? And then I bottled it.
ďIíve changed my mind. Iíve changed my mind. Epidural please...and fast!Ē
WHAT IS AN EPIDURAL?
Nobody knows exactly what to expect regarding how labour will feel for them, until it actually starts. Some people find that labour is bearable with little or no pain relief but many, like me, feel that they want help at some point. An epidural is one of the major forms of pain relief that is available.
An anaesthetist has to be present to perform this procedure which involves a local anaesthetic injection into the small of your back, ready for the insertion of a hollow needle to act as a guide for a thin tube. This has to be precisely located between the vertabrae of your back and into the space outside the coverings that surround your spinal cord. After the fine tube is put in place, the needle is removed and the tube taped to your back. Pain killing medication is administered via the tube to numb the lower part of your abdomen. This works by deadening the nerves which carry pain signals from your womb and cervix and means that you can no longer feel your contraction. Your legs and feet go numb aswell. Itís virtually instant pain relief!
Epidural Anaesthesia has been used for many years and is a relatively safe and reliable technique. But as with any medical procedure there are pros and cons...
~ Being numb from the waist down somewhat limits your activity and you therefore have to stay in bed. Thereís no practising those birthing positions! It also results in lack of bladder feeling so you wonít know if you need the toilet. A catheter is therefore inserted to drain your urine and empty your bladder.
~ A drip has to be inserted into the back of your hand as an epidural can make your blood pressure drop rapidly. This must therefore be checked at frequent intervals and the drip allows it to be treated in an instant.
~ If the anaesthetic isnít allowed to wear off for the latter stages of delivery, you wonít be able to feel yourself pushing properly. You have to be told when to push and then try your best! Unfortunately, the assistance of Ventouse may eventually be needed as a result.
~ One of the main concerns regarding epidurals is the fear of permanent paralysis. There have been a few cases where women have found themselves completely paralysed or with long term problems after having an epidural wrongly inserted but it is in fact an extremely rare occurance and some internet research tells me that it is highly unlikely to happen.
~ As I mentioned earlier, the pain subsides almost immediately - probably after about 10 minutes. Itís such a relaxing feeling to be suddenly pain free!
~ From that point on your mind is totally clear. This restores a much needed feeling of confidence at such a vulnerable time.
As you can see, epidural anaesthesia has its fair share of disadvantages but I think the pros that it does have are rather good. I will go on to detail my birth experience....
After requesting an epidural I had to wait a short while for the anaesthetist to arrive. It seemed like ages but in reality it was 5 minutes at most...the haziness I felt due to the gas and air meant Iíd lost all concept of time!
During the wait I thought back to my original birth plan and how my views had suddenly changed. This was turning out to be so different to the birth I had planned! Throughout my pregnancy I was determined that I wanted a fully natural birth with no forms of pain relief. My midwife managed to persuade me to be a little more flexible and include Ďunless absolutely necessaryí on my birth plan so that the option was there if I felt I needed it when the time came. I agreed but in the back of my mind I had no intention of succumbing and still thought I could resist. How wrong I was!
The anaesthetist entered the room and because I was fast running out of time he quickly explained the procedure and asked me to assume the position...sat on the edge of the bed, leaning forwards...so he could get to work straight away. An open-backed hospital gown has to be worn to allow easy access for the epidural area. I was instructed to sit perfectly still but itís so difficult when contractions are frequently coming - or in my case, seemingly continuous. I had no choice though - at nearly 8 centimetres dilated I was reaching the cut off point where Iíd have to continue with no pain relief. An epidural is usually administered when the cervix is around 5-6cm so I was certainly cutting it fine!
Many peopleís biggest fear about having an epidural is the pain of having it put in. All I can say is, what pain? It didnít hurt at all - just resulted in a strange tingly sensation in my lower back. If like me youíre afraid of needles I can honestly say thereís no need to worry. The initial thought of an injection in my back really made me feel sick but you hardly even notice it. The epidural has to be administered between contractions and I can assure you, youíre concentrating so hard on sitting completely still that you certainly wonít be worried about how big Ďjust a little prickí actually is. Needless to say, do not look at the needle!
I was so desperate for pain relief that itís all a bit of a blur but what amazing stuff. Within 10 minutes I was asleep! Hubby had to check with the midwife that I was OK. The fact that Iíd gone from hysterical panic to deep slumber in such a short space of time worried him slightly. I was fi ne though and had actually slept through a few contractions. As my labour progressed we did have a short period of panic when the room suddenly became a whirlwind of activity as babyís heartbeat began to drop. After some careful monitoring, it soon returned to normal though and we were able to continue.
From the waist down I had no sensation whatsoever and my legs were like dead weights. An epidural is continuously checked to make sure it remains effective and can be allowed to wear off so you can push with full force everytime you have a contraction but I couldnít feel a thing and had to be told everytime I had a contraction. This was fi ne though and the pushing mustíve been effective as it didnít take long to deliver my son - although fi nal assistance of ventouse was needed. I also had to endure an episiotomy which was neccessary to widen the birth canal.
This may sound strange but overall it seemed to be what I would describe as an effortless birth and little Jack was born just 4 hours after weíd arrived at hospital. Hard to believe that it was just over a year ago. It seems like yesterday!
For a few hours afterwards I was unable to walk or stand up but to be honest, due to the episiotomy and stitches I didnít really want to be walking anyway. When the numbness began to subside I was warned that I may experience a headache. This can be caused by a slight leakage of cerebro-spinal fluid when the epidural tube is removed. It only happens in approximately 1% of patients and is easily treated. Backache is common aswell but apart from being tired and a bit sore Ďdown belowí I felt fine, just a little overwhelmed by the fact that Iíd given birth!
There have been some issues lately regarding the use of epidurals. The Royal Society of Midwives were reported as saying that they think it should no longer be offered unless medically necessary. It would be available to all women...but at a cost. In my eyes this would be completely unfair but I think I am correct in saying that the government arenít going to be putting this into action.
They also claim that a mother whoís had an epidural canít bond properly with their baby...ďA woman should experience and come to terms with the productive pain of child birth in order to fully appreciate and bond with their babyĒ...What complete and utter tosh! I fully disagree with this statement and actually find it quite insulting. Are they saying that because I had an epidural I donít appreciate my child? Pardon my French but all I can say to that is Ďbollocksí!!!
Itís not uncommon for women to think that receiving pain relief during child birth is a weak thing to do but in my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Before going through the experience myself, I stupidly considered chemical assistance almost as a failure. One of my ideas in the quest to be a perfect mother I suppose, with the beginning being the major achievment of a perfect birth. But as you can tell, my views have now changed.
Why put yourself through so much pain if itís not necessary? Child birth can be quite a traumatic experience for any woman and if the facilities are available to make the process a lot less distressing then why not allow yourself a major form of pain relief?
Personally, I didnít find the gas and air to be very effective. It just made things seem a bit fuzzy and offered a distraction during contractions. I really couldnít have contemplated going on any further in this manner, hence my decision, and Iím so glad I did choose an epidural in the end. It made such a difference to me and helped to keep me calm and focussed throughout my labour. I actually enjoyed the experience of my son being born. Instead of being enveloped in overwhelming pain, I was able to catch up on some sleep and prepare myself to fully concentrate on the birth, also allowing my baby to enter the world in a calmer atmosphere. Surely this can only be seen as beneficial.
The epidural may sound like quite an invasive procedure due to the tubes etc, but you really donít notice them as your thoughts are elsewhere! And yes, there is evidence which suggests that there is slightly more chance of having a forceps delivery but itís not the end of the world.
On the whole I can thoroughly recommend an epidural during child birth.
Before deciding for yourself there are a few other factors to consider. Itís worth knowing that 10% of women will not find an epidural effective and it wonít actually work for them. There are also certain complications and conditions where epidural anaesthesia cannot be given such as severe back problems, infections, a tendency to bleed and nervous system diseases. Not every hospital in the UK offers a 24 hour epidural service as itís dependent on an anaesthetist being on duty. This would need to be checked with your midwife prior to your baby being born so that you know what to expect and if an epidural would actually be available.
Lastly, a quick note for any expectant mums....
Most mothers, especially first time round, have a birthing plan which may not go according to plan for a number of reasons. The best advice I can offer regarding this is to remain flexible in your views and be prepared for any unexpected complications or eventualities...but donít be frightened. Youíll be in the hands of the experts!
Summary: A major form of pain relief available during labour
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